It's a good bet that most of us know someone who has been in hospice care. This end-of-life care has become so commonplace that it's hard to realize it was basically unheard of before the 1950s.

That's when a British physician, Cicely Saunders, started the modern hospice movement. It has since spread around the world, helped by the recognition that the end of life is a natural part of life, and that patients and their families in that station deserve respect and dignity.

However, there remain many misconceptions about hospice care, and we hope National Hospice Month, which is celebrated each November, will help clear up some of the disinformation.

For starters, hospice care is not a place where dying patients are "dumped" when medical options no longer exist.

Instead, hospice care allows patients and their loved ones to make the most of their time together. Or, as one hospice center website put it so eloquently, the goal is to provide compassionate, quality comfort care that enhances the lives of people with life-limiting illness and their families.

Treating patients and their families with dignity, and providing them with comfort in a difficult time, is so important, as those who have experienced hospice care can testify.

Do some research and you'll find this information about hospice care:

  • -- Providers seek to provide accurate and honest information to patients and families.
  • -- This information is intended to help patients and families deal realistically with a fatal disease.
  • --Hospice care does not hasten or prolong death.

It is often said that hospice care is a mindset, not a place. Indeed, in recent years, more and more hospice care is available in the home, further diminishing the fear and stigma of "going someplace to die."

During this National Hospice Month, we encourage families to have conversations about end-of-life care, discuss hopes and fears about such care, and to explore options.

Doing so now can remove one more burden, and eliminate one more difficult decision when the times comes.

This is also a time to recognize and appreciate the work of hospice providers. For many of us, what they do seems like it would be extremely difficult and draining. Yet they often say they find the work rewarding. Their dedication is to be admired, never more so than during National Hospice Month.

This editorial is the opinion of Rochester Post-Bulletin editorial board.